Shared Stewardship in Colorado

Shared Stewardship in Colorado

Colorado’s forest landscapes and watersheds face increasing challenges. Overly dense forests, fire suppression, widespread insect and disease impacts, population growth, and climate change all increase wildfire risk and impact forest health and recreation opportunities. Shared Stewardship brings together national, regional, state, tribal, and local governments and stakeholders to plan together, prioritize together, and act together.

In 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s U.S. Forest Service released its national Shared Stewardship strategy outlining three core elements:

In a Shared Stewardship approach, the USDA Forest Service seeks to share decision space with state and tribal foresters and other partners to determine land management needs at the state and tribal level. 

A Shared Stewardship agreement was formalized in Colorado in 2019 when the U.S. Department of Agriculture (which includes the U.S. Forest Service) and the State of Colorado signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to establish a Shared Stewardship framework for all lands in the state. DNR is working with partners at the Colorado State Forest Service, Division of Fire Prevention and Control, and others, to advance Shared Stewardship in Colorado.

Here is a video from the US Forest Service on Shared Stewardship:

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Colorado Shared Stewardship Stakeholder Survey

Please take our shared stewardship stakeholder survey. The purpose is to gauge Coloradans understanding and willingness to engage in Shared Stewardship work in Colorado.  As joint signatories to Colorado’s MOU, state and federal partners seek your feedback on a draft Shared Stewardship Opportunity Map and the identification of opportunity areas for this strategy.

Shared Stewardship Opportunity Area

Opportunity Map

  • A draft Shared Stewardship Opportunity Map has been developed by state and federal partners to highlight areas where Colorado’s Shared Stewardship MOU overlap Colorado’s forest landscapes.
  • These opportunity-rich areas represent potential places to align public, private and tribal resources to achieve the greatest positive outcomes.
     
  • Signatories to Colorado’s MOU intend to use this map to focus their resources and investments.
  • This draft Shared Stewardship opportunity map uses Colorado’s 2020 Forest Action Plan map as the core base-layer, but is distinct from it in that it also integrates recreation areas, social vulnerability of communities to wildfire based on their capacity to mitigate wildfire, and other disruptive challenges such as potential drought.
  • If an area is not highlighted it does not mean that opportunities for important forest health and resilience work do not exist or that MOU signatories will neglect these areas.

Map Technical Guide

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Colorado's forest landscapes and watersheds face increasing challenges. Overly dense forests, fire suppression, widespread insect and disease impacts, population growth and climate change all pose unprecedented threats and contribute to increasing wildfire risk. Increased use impacts recreation infrastructure and wildlife. We must manage Colorado's forests at much larger scales to meaningfully address these challenges. Shared Stewardship brings together national, regional, state, tribal and local players to plan together, prioritize together, and act together.

In 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's U.S. Forest Service released its
national Shared Stewardship strategy outlining three core elements:

  1. Determine management needs on a state level
  2. Do the right work in the right places at the right scale
  3. Use all available tools for active management 

In a Shared Stewardship approach, the USDA Forest Service seeks to share decision space with state and tribal foresters and other partners to determine land management needs at the state and tribal level.

Shared Stewardship priorities are those agreed upon by Colorado and the USDA Forest Service.

A Shared Stewardship agreement was formalized in Colorado in 2019 when the U.S. Department of Agriculture (which includes the U.S. Forest Service) and the State of Colorado signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to establish a Shared Stewardship framework for all lands in the state.

In 2019, the state of Colorado's Department of Natural Resources (DNR) worked with the Governor's Office and the USDA Forest Service (Rocky Mountain Region) to craft an agreement reflecting the diverse priorities of Coloradans. This mutual agreement resulted in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the State of Colorado and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

DNR leadership pushed to include diverse groups and values. Therefore, the Colorado Shared Stewardship MOU broadly focuses on managing Colorado's forests for ecological restoration, recreation, protecting water resources and infrastructure, conserving fish and wildlife, engaging diverse stakeholders, and promoting healthy and safe communities.

 

After signing the Shared Stewardship MOU in October 2019, Colorado officials and the USDA Forest Service began meeting in February 2020 to chart a path forward. This group-referred to as MOU Partners-includes the U.S. Department of Agriculture's U.S. Forest Service, Colorado's Department of Natural Resources, as well as the Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS). The Partners are bound by these principles:

 

  • Science: Determine availability of data, maps and analyses.
  • Tools: Use all available authorities, programs and tools.
  • Models: Select appropriate models for prioritizing and decision-making.
  • Strategies and Plans: Use existing plans as a foundation.
  • Resources: Evaluate and deploy all available resources.
  • Relationships: Work in partnership with other federal agencies, state agencies, tribal governments, local governments, private landowners and non-governmental organizations.
  • Innovation and Public Engagement: Maintain customer focus and embrace new partnerships

The first step for the Partners in the MOU is to prioritize specific areas of Colorado's forests for collaborative management. Colorado's Shared Stewardship joint prioritization map will be released in  2021. The second step for the Partners in the MOU is to develop and release a multi-year work plan.
 

The strength of the MOU lies with diverse partners working toward shared goals. While the Shared Stewardship agreement was signed by Governor Jared Polis and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, the MOU explicitly directs their respective agencies to involve tribal and local governments, other federal agencies and non-governmental organizations in the implementation and oversight of Shared Stewardship in Colorado. Therefore, partners will be engaged in identifying priority landscapes, designing and implementing activities, and monitoring and evaluating outcomes.
 

Colorado is fortunate to have many active forest and watershed collaborative groups already engaged in cross-boundary Shared Stewardship work. Collaborative groups have leveraged federal and non-federal resources through the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program {CFLRP), the Joint Chiefs' Restoration Partnership, Forests to Faucets, Good Neighbor Authority and other programs.

Implementing Colorado's Shared Stewardship MOU will not replace this ongoing work. Rather, the MOU amplifies efforts already occurring in Colorado. The Department of Natural Resources, Colorado State Forest Service, and U.S. Forest Service will work together - and with partner organizations - to improve coordination at a state-level. We will make joint decisions to invest our resources where they can do the most to reduce wildfire risk, protect water resources, improve wildlife habitat and recreation opportunities, and ensure that forests continue to contribute to a high quality of life in the state.

Colorado's Shared Stewardship MOU emphasizes new tools to build on existing efforts, including:

  • Using the latest science, technology, resources and all active management tools, including the right kind of fire;
  • Focusing work on broad outcomes rather than local outputs; and
  • Capitalizing on the authorities created by recent legislation.

The Rocky Mountain Restoration Initiative was born when Colorado was selected as a pilot location by the National Wild Turkey Federation and the USDA Forest Service to showcase the USDA's Shared Stewardship Strategy. RMRI is a national effort co-convened by the National Wild Turkey Federation, and the U.S. Forest Service, and a variety of state and local partners to increase the pace of landscape­ scale forest restoration in the Rocky Mountain West. The Rocky Mountain Restoration Initiative is an example of shared stewardship in Colorado, but does not represent the entirety of shared stewardship in the state. RMRI will be included in Colorado's Shared Stewardship Work Plan, and will provide examples of strategies for working across jurisdictional boundaries with government and non- government partners to scale forest restoration treatments and measure landscape level outcomes.

Shared Stewardship empowers Colorado and all its partners and their existing assessments. DNR, USFS and CSFS will consider relevant existing plans, assessments, and agreements for incorporation into a state-level prioritization process, including Colorado's 2020 Forest Action Plan . The partners will also seek stakeholder feedback on incorporating additional resources. Appendix A of the MOU contains a list of some of the types of resources that will be considered.

Shared Stewardship provides the structure to combine funding sources toward the right work in the right place at the right scale based on collaborative input. By prioritizing and planning work together, there is an opportunity to take advantage of shared resources and economies of scale to treat more acres with limited funding dollars. Existing authorities, programs, and funding streams can be leveraged to strategically direct investments. By combining and leveraging resources, staff and funding, we achieve shared goals across boundaries.

Shared Stewardship aims to engage all forest landowners in Colorado in collaborative forest management. Colorado and the U.S. Forest Service will continue to provide technical and funding support to help private landowners sustainably manage their forestlands,  and will identify opportunities to enhance this support. Private landowners will be engaged in landscape-scale forest management efforts to improve forest health across ownership boundaries.

Private landowners are eligible for a variety of state and federal resources, including:

  • Colorado State Forest Service's Programs for Homeowners and Landowners
  • U.S. Forest Service's Landowner Resources
  • National Resource Conservation Service's NRCS Funding Opportunities
     

After signing the Shared Stewardship MOU in October 2019, Colorado agency staff and the U.S. Forest Service began meeting in February 2020 to chart our path forward. The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us to develop new ways to build effective interagency partnerships and perform stakeholder engagement in a remote work environment. We are nonetheless committed to advancing the scope of work outlined in our MOU. Our goal will be to draft our joint prioritization map in 2021, and complete a Work Plan later in the year.

Signatory Partners of the Colorado Shared Stewardship MOU will complete a prioritization map in 2021. Once complete, stakeholders will then have the opportunity to provide feedback. Any specific projects identified in Colorado's Shared Stewardship Work Plan will be subject to relevant environmental reviews, which will also provide opportunities for public engagement.

Shared Stewardship focuses work on broad outcomes. It does not offer a one-size-fits-all metric for success, but empowers partners and stakeholders to identify desired outcomes and the key performance indicators for measuring them. 

The Colorado Shared Stewardship MOU identifies seven key elements of Shared Stewardship in the state:

  • Ecological restoration
  • Sustainable recreation opportunities
  • Sustainable recreation amenities
  • Protection of water resources and critical infrastructure
  • Conservation of fish and wildlife
  • Inclusion of diverse populations
  • Healthy communities and vibrant economies

These elements will guide how to evaluate the successes of Shared Stewardship in Colorado. For example: Are we reducing wildfire risk near communities, water resources and critical infrastructure? Is recreation sustainable and contributing to quality of life and economic activity in the state?
Processes to monitor and evaluate outcomes will evolve as planning and execution unfolds across Colorado, but these types of questions will guide work across the expanding network of collaborative projects.